Bayer CropScience and Texas AgriLife Research, a part of the Texas A&M University System, College Station, Texas, have signed a multi-year agreement to develop and commercialize improved wheat varieties. Utilizing Texas AgriLife Research’s extensive collection of wheat cultivars and germplasm and Bayer’s expertise in both classical and molecular plant breeding, the collaboration aims to bolster current development efforts and expedite the delivery of higher yielding wheat varieties to market. Financial details of the collaboration were not released.

In particular, researchers and breeders at both institutions will focus on developing wheat lines that offer improved yields, as well as regionally important characteristics such as drought resistance, disease resistance and improved quality. Texas AgriLife Research is a leading provider of Hard Red Winter Wheat germplasm for the Southern Great Plains region of the U.S., and its collection will serve as a strong basis for developing these new lines.

Additionally, the collaboration will focus on the development of molecular breeding tools to facilitate the rapid genetic improvement of wheat. Combining both classical and modern breeding techniques is expected to increase the rate of wheat yield improvement and allow wheat to thrive in areas with conditions which are unfavorable currently for wheat production.

“Wheat productivity has not kept pace with the advancement in other crops like corn, but Bayer is determined to see that trend reversed,” said Dr. Mathias Kremer, Head of the BioScience business unit at Bayer CropScience. “By working together with the many wheat experts in the Texas A&M University System to harness the tools of modern plant breeding and biotechnology, we are convinced we can help make wheat farmers in Texas and beyond more productive and sustainable by delivering new high-yielding varieties that are more resilient against pests, disease and environmental stresses like drought.”

Craig Nessler, Ph.D., director of Texas AgriLife Research, said the collaboration with Bayer CropScience will give worldwide exposure to the wheat improvement programs of Texas AgriLife Research and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. “This endeavor will enhance the impact of these programs while building a strategic research and development relationship with a company that shares AgriLife’s dedication to crop improvement,” Nessler said.

The collaboration with Texas AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M University System is an example of Bayer’s strategy to work with leading global institutions that share a vision of improving wheat productivity in all the major wheat growing regions of the world. This agreement complements the many other collaborations that Bayer has in wheat with organizations including South Dakota State University (USA), University of Nebraska-Lincoln (USA), NARDI (Romania), RAGT (France), Evogene (Israel), and CSIRO (Australia).

Texas Wheat Facts:

  • Texas ranks 4th in production versus other U.S. states.
  • Over the past seven years, Texas has averaged planting 5,800,000 acres of winter wheat and harvested about 2,800,000 acres.
  • In 2011, about 3.9 million acres across five U.S. states were planted in varieties developed by Texas AgriLife Research.
  • Drought tolerance is a key trait of interest in Texas. The 2011 drought devastated the Texas wheat crop, with total production only reaching 49.4 million bushels, compared to 127.5 million bushels in 2010.
  • Due to the drought last year, more than 900,000 acres of wheat were abandoned due to extremely poor yield or total crop failure.